The Chicago White Sox couldn’t escape spring without picking up a few more than the usual bumps and bruises along the way. As spring turns into season, there are several prominent aches currently plaguing the South Siders, and depending on how they heal, these injuries could have a sizable impact on the start of the 2014 season.
Jose Abreu’s ankles first started bothering him in mid March, with some mild soreness that came and went. The exact source of the soreness still remains a mystery, with manager Robin Ventura speculating that it could be caused by Abreu’s new orthotics or different field conditions.
However, by the end of spring training, Abreu’s ankles caused enough concern among the White Sox to bench him for several consecutive games. Infinite hope dictates that Abreu stays healthy, and that the rest he received will be enough to keep the injury in check. His line of .286/.298/.482, three home runs and 12 RBI, along with his defense and his attitude towards the game would make an injury even more devastating, to the fans and to the front office alike.
If Abreu does need to spend some time on the disabled list, the White Sox have a few options. In a less-than-ideal situation, Paul Konerko or Adam Dunn could jump from rotating backups to temporary full-time roles. Triple A Charlotte first baseman Andy Wilkins also caused a stir with his .438 batting average in 16 spring at bats, and could also be given a shot in the majors should something happen to Abreu.
While Abreu’s injury has available major league-ready remedies, two other infield injuries quickly opened two spots of rare Opening Day opportunity for hungry youngsters.
Veteran utility man Jeff Keppinger spent most of spring training in a state of perpetual frustration after offseason shoulder surgery left lingering tightness that made it difficult and near-impossible for him to throw a baseball.
Though the tightness robbed him of one of the most essential functions of a third baseman, his ability to swing wasn’t affected and he played six games as a designated hitter. However, with the ache in his shoulder, Keppinger struggled to find a rhythm and produced a line of .125/.176/.125.
The presences of Dunn and Konerko to balance the DH spot meant that Keppinger’s lone option was to start the season on the disabled list.
After hurting his left oblique in the middle of March, second baseman Gordon Beckham seemed optimistic about his chances of starting 2014 in the lineup before reality set in. In the past year or so, Beckham’s health has flirted with the dreaded label “injury-prone”; he spent significant parts of last season benched with two wrist injuries and ended the season nursing a sore quad that significantly hampered his on-field production.
Before the oblique shut him down, Beckham’s bat seemed to have stayed behind in the Chicago cold, and his slash line was one of the ugliest of White Sox regulars, at .167/.194/.300. He hit just one double and one home run before being shut down and sentenced to the disabled list.
With Beckham and Keppinger benched, Leury Garcia and Marcus Semien scrapped their way onto the Opening Day roster, with Semien taking over Beckham’s starting job at second base and Garcia filling Keppinger’s utility bench role.
Semien showed good range and continued to develop his versatile defense all around the infield while putting together an impressive .333/.422/.481 line. Garcia earned his spot with an equally-solid spring at the plate, with a .306/.405/.333 line and near-flawless defense in both the infield and outfield. Garcia’s all-around versatility as both a defender and a switch hitter made the White Sox try even harder to find a place for him on the roster.
There is no timetable for Keppinger’s return, while Beckham will be eligible to come off the disabled list on April 5. In the meantime, Semien has the chance to experience his first major league Opening Day and Garcia, who spent part of last season in the majors with both the White Sox and the Texas Rangers, has the chance to further prove he belongs.